Sometimes in life, you can't do anything right for doing wrong. Well, at least that is the phrase my mother used to use whenever I rebuffed her advice as a youngster, especially when she would give me what turned out to be sage advice. I invariably never took the freely and kindly given counsel and always to my cost. It is only now on reflection that I can look back objectively and see how truly wise she was.
No great philosophical insight lay behind my mother's guidance. It was based on and around the experiences of a 'lived-life'. I am the youngest of five children and though I didn't realise it at the time, I was the beneficiary of the experience gained by her having guided the other four through the complexities of child and young adulthood. I was the recipient of much good and I suppose also some discarded bad practice, gained and experienced along the way.
Growing up, I was always conscious of being 'the wean'. I was, they say, a wee bit spoiled, though I found this a very peculiar word to use when referring to me and I believe any other child who appeared to outsiders to have some kind of elevated position within the family unit. I expect the advantages they supposedly had over the others was invisible to they themselves as it definitely was to me. I simply lived the life I was given by my parents and I am sure that in their eyes they provided for all of us to the best of their abilities. I just think that maybe financially they had a wee bit more in the tank when I came along and therefore my lived experience was that bit easier.
All of that was a long time ago and we are now very much in the advanced adult stage of our lives. My siblings are all grandparents, having left behind the traumas, highs, woes and happy times that make up being a parent, to now watch on from a respectful distance as their progeny find their way through life.
However, our children never stop being that. No matter their being adults and in the case of my nieces and nephews, parents themselves, we can't help but sometimes see them truly for what they are: 'the weans'. I don't mean that in any disparaging or dismissive term, just really in the truest sense that we do often forget that as they grow older and take on the mantle of adulthood, somewhere inside there is the remnant of a childhood lived and experienced. A childhood aided, abetted and even, if on a subconscious level, highly influenced by their parents, as they tried to make sense of the world and their place in it. Just as their parents did before them and others will do in the future.
I loved being the wee one, I hated being the wee one too, but I gained much from my siblings and my position in the family. Having older brothers and sisters could give you a bit of standing in the community or be a bit of a burden, depending on how they were viewed and by whom. Reputations and friendships they held could make or break your journey through adolescence and young adulthood, especially in the small community in which we lived. I think they dealt me a decent hand in that respect and though not all plain sailing, it turned out okay for me.
As for my parents, well, the older I get, the more I realise that the things they used to say were not as I thought at the time – out of date or silly – but sometimes profound, sometimes just plain common sense, and more often than not, correct.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org